Recently I’ve been visiting a friend in psychiatric hospital. To project they’re anonymity I’m going to refer to them as B.
B doesn’t have many people around at the moment. I care a lot about B and want to be there for them.
B is currently in the same ward, though, as I was in in early 2011, in which I was treated very badly in.
So in the beginning visiting that ward was quite a sensitive subject for me.
My recent visits to B are not the first time I’ve been back there.
In late 2011 a friend who was an in-patient at the same time as me was back in and I visited her then.
Twice earlier this year I gave training courses on the grounds of that hospital – not on that ward, but in the grounds, but still that restored my confidence a little.
But still going to visit B was a sensitive thing for me.
But I have done it four times recently and I noticed that I am now entirely comfortable with being there. I don’t feel like the person I was when I was a patient. I feel strong and empowered. I feel able.
And today I feel like I made a little beauty from the pain I experienced in that hospital, and what they put me through in that hospital.
A couple of weeks ago I visited B and I brought them a bag with colouring books and markers, play dough and a jigsaw puzzle.
B is in a really bad way at the moment, and is struggling with constant extremely bad thoughts.
I asked B if they had tried the colouring books or play dough. B responded to say that he wondered if that was the mental capacity they’d been reduced to.
Well, I explained to B that I didn’t think it was about their mental capacity.
In my opinion, it is about doing something soothing and calming. I thought that since B had constant negative thoughts that they could not escape from that if they sit and try something calming, but easy, like colouring in or playing with play dough, that it won’t make the thoughts go away, but it can distract from them a little – after all, we can’t focus completely on our thoughts if we are also focusing on something else at the same time.
Well, today when visiting, I asked B to take out the colouring books and play dough. B did mention that the other patients would think that he was a fruitcake if they seen him. I asked if B could bring them out for me to use. A bit of chill out time for me…
I also had another friend in hospital who I encouraged to join us.
We sat and coloured in and played with the play dough.
Another patient, who I had not met before, asked if they could join us. They also joined in and enjoyed it. B did later join in the colouring in, and later said that it did distract from the thoughts, and gave him at least half an hour of his day which wasn’t so unbearable.
Something that I thought was really nice is that the other patient who had joined us thanked me and said that I had ‘made a comfortable space.’ I liked this a lot.
I have never seen anything like that happen in that ward. Just someone sitting in the main room with something as simple as colouring books and play dough.
All I really see is beds, meals at set times, and a group of people smoking outside.
There likely is more to the place than this, but it was all I experienced as an in-patient there, and all that I have really seen anyone else experience in it.
It was precisely because I remembered how painfully boring and drab it is in there that I thought these activities would help, but I feel like three people benefited even a little from me bringing this activity to the ward today.
When I am in the hospital I also make sure to say hello to every person I see there, and ask them how they are doing. I recognise that for some of the patients they may very rarely be asked this. And little things like that do matter. A lot.
It felt good to make those little differences today.
But also they’re simple things, when I think back to me a few years ago, before I got very unwell, I don’t think I would have been able to help in these simple ways.
So again I have my mental illness to thank for this. And also certainly my experience of that hospital.
I also tried to help B see some ways which, in time, they can also make beauty from pain for others. I know he can do it. He can’t see it right now. But I hope I planted a seed at least.
This is probably a painfully boring blog post for anyone who reads it.
If you’ve made it this far well done.
I just wanted to share this experience with you. It is something that gave me a lot of hope, and it’s a reminder for me of just what a help the little things can be when supporting someone with a mental illness.
There’s usually no massive thing that anyone can do to help – usually it’s the simplest things that will help the most.
Filed under: mental health awareness